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Friday, October 15, 2010

A modern day ADAM & EVE

Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund
Published by William Morrow
339 pages

One of the oldest stories ever told, that of Adam and Eve, gets a unique remake of sorts in Sena Jeter Naslund's Adam & Eve.

Lucy is in Amsterdam for a scientific conference with her husband Thom, an astrophysicist of renown, who tells Lucy that he has proof of extraterrestrial life. He gives Lucy a memory stick that contains all of his evidence.

Thom is killed by a falling piano, and Lucy is devastated. Still grieving her loss three years later, Lucy is invited to welcome scientists to a conference in Cairo. It is too much for her, and she breaks down on stage.

She meets a young woman who takes Lucy to her father, a scientist Lucy met at the conference. They convince Lucy to smuggle something out of Egypt for them- an alternate version of the book of Genesis that they have found buried.

There are fundamentalist Christians, Muslim extremists and literalist Jews who have banded together to stop anyone from finding out about this discovery, even willing to kill to prevent the world from reading this other Genesis.

Lucy agrees to fly a plane to France with the scripture, but her plane crashes and she is discovered by Adam, a young soldier who was kidnapped and assaulted by soldiers. Adam believes that Lucy is his Eve and that they are living in the Garden of Eden.

This is a big book, full of so many themes it can make your head spin. Lucy and Adam's life in Eden parallels the Biblical story, particularly when another soldier lands in their garden. His presence dramatically changes the dynamic of the Garden. Is he the embodiment of the devilish snake from Genesis?

The violence that is an everyday part of life in the Middle East is explored as a root cause of the rise of  dangerous religious fundamentalism. Throw in the possibility of life on other planets and the fear of that knowledge endangering religious doctrine. Add in the discovery of very early human drawings in caves in France and you've got a lot to think about.

Naslund has packed a lot of ideas into 350 pages, and her characters are well-drawn and interesting. Lucy and Adam's life in the garden is fascinating, and thriller fans will be rewarded with an action-packed sequence that resolves the story. Adam & Eve is the thinking person's answer to The DaVinci Code.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

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